CHAN­NEL FOUR

Meet the Brits abroad, off in search of fa­mil­iar land­marks: white cliffs, Le Mans and... fish and chips

Top Gear (UK) - - TEAM GB - WORDS: OL­LIE MAR­RIAGE / PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: ROWAN HORNCASTLE

First stop: the white cliffs of... Saint-Jouin-Bruneval.

No sign of an oiseau bleu, but here they are, just as im­pres­sively dra­matic and im­pos­ing as those on the other side of the Chan­nel. Stands to rea­son, when you think about it.

Let’s call this the trip of home comforts. White cliffs, fol­lowed by Le Mans, the lat­ter a path trod­den by some 100,000 Bri­tish race-go­ers ev­ery year. Even some of the péages are set up for right-hook­ers. A southerly leapfrog that will put us at Cir­cuit de Cha­rade to­mor­row evening.

“You know the bruises you get from kart­ing?” says Andy Franklin, ten­derly un­wind­ing him­self from the Ex­ige at the base of the cliffs, “I’ve got the same rib pain right now.” “I’m just glad we’re in France,” re­torts Owen Nor­ris, “on that last stretch of the M20 down to the Euro­tun­nel, the sur­face was so rough I could feel the con­tact lenses vi­brat­ing on my eyes. I’m not sure I want

that much feed­back.”

Monk-like in their ap­proach to crea­ture comforts, both the Lo­tus Ex­ige Cup 430 and McLaren 600LT have self-flag­el­lated the weight away. The McLaren has no air­con (sav­ing 12.6kg) and ‘ben­e­fits’ from the Senna’s op­tional 8kg light­weight seats. The Lo­tus un­der­stands the con­cept of pad­ding and cool­ing, but ap­proaches it with a wari­ness borne of seven decades of kilo-shed­ding.

While my col­leagues per­form their dad­danc­ing stretch-and-lunge rou­tines in a bid to stave off cramp, I sur­rep­ti­tiously con­grat­u­late my­self on se­lect­ing the As­ton Martin Van­tage for the first 250 miles of this trip. I had plumply bol­stered seats, vents ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing an arc­tic gale, se­lectable tunes, some ac­tual rear vis­i­bil­ity that wasn’t just wires and the top of a su­per­charger, and Places To Put Things.

Now, plen­ti­ful stowage is hardly the plat­form on which Speed Week is con­structed, but we do these drive downs for a rea­son. Each of these cars has num­ber­plates, head­lights and knows its way around the Euro VI emis­sions leg­is­la­tion. They are road cars. Even the hard­est-cored track­a­holic will be do­ing more road than track miles in their Ex­ige. Same goes for the 488 Pista that Jack Rix is nos­ing through Maranello, and the 691bhp 911 GT2 RS Ol­lie Kew is saun­ter­ing over the Swiss Alps in. Road cars, one and all (yes, even the Dal­lara Stradale). And right now, they’re all do­ing road-car things. Do­ing them a bit faster in the case of Char­lie Turner in the Bu­gatti Ch­i­ron, but that’s his speed­ing ticket.

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